Can I summarize our time today in Nicaragua with a few short phrases? Perhaps I can like this: Good dirty work. A home away from home. Record attendance at the children’s program. A snake bitten pastor. A changing paradigm for church leaders in Nicaragua. A worship experience that was out of this world. Eight-hundred and ninety kilometers covered. If you’re interested and have the time to find out more about these things, read on!
It has been wonderful working shoulder-to-shoulder with this team, picking, shoveling, wheeling and leveling dirt in preparation for the construction of a large auditorium that will seat 500 people and will serve as a meeting place for members from all the Brethren in Christ Churches in Nicaragua. Today it became clearer that we will most likely finish this initial stage of the construction project tomorrow (Thursday), which will bring this good, dirty work to its proper conclusion. This hasn’t been the kind of labour people would normally volunteer to do – but several members of the team have commented, and I agree with them, we do it because we want to serve others and to be an encouragement to them!
Our noon meals have been served to us with great love and care at our “home away from home.” This is a lovely place nestled just steps away from the construction site, where we are received on the front porch at the entrance to the home, simply decorated by the hand of a lady who is a member of the church and who has a knack for tending beautiful plants which she has planted around her home; and who, along with the lady pastor of the congregation serves us delicious meals seasoned with love and genuine hospitality. Having a special place like this to eat lunch “hits the spot” for all of us who are far from home right now. It truly is a “home way from home!”
A record attendance of 47 children was had today at a new location called “La Montanita” which we travelled to as a whole team this afternoon. This location is quite a distance out in the country on narrow, dusty, dirt roads. It was beautiful looking out in the distance seeing the children walking toward us full of anticipation of what might await them during their time with the foreigners from Canada. I have had the opportunity to be a part of all the children’s activities (5 so far) and each time I like to imagine the kids in 10 to 15 years. It is my hope and prayer that each of them will find God’s right path to follow, that they will grow up healthy, optimistic and full joy as they follow Jesus and establish their homes based on the principles found in the Bible. I encourage you to pray for them that this will happen, and that our time with them will help them find this way.
The pastor at La Montanita shared with Pastor Todd and myself how he had been serving as a pastor of a congregation in a part of Nicaragua that was very isolated and that had many venomous snakes. One day a poisonous, yellow bearded snake which was more than a metre long bit him in the shin. He and his uncle killed the snake and opened its mouth to confirm that the snake still had all its fangs intact, so they would know that none of the fangs had broken off under his skin. Although they were thankful that they didn’t find any broken or missing fangs, the bite still posed a threat to his life, especially since there is no anti-venom for this particular snake. Three days later people in the community were surprised to find him out walking around and coming to visit them. This pastor gave the credit to God and thanked Him for preserving his life and for granting him a quick recovery. Another lady from the same community was bitten by the same variety of snake around the same time, and unfortunately she was bed-ridden for forty days until she recovered. So God certainly showed mercy to him!
A new paradigm is developing among the Brethren in Christ Churches in Nicaragua. In the past some congregations had begun to expect the national church in Nicaragua and the international church to meet many of their needs, and they tended to be mostly concerned about their own local church. Current national church leaders have been led by God to work to change this way of thinking and were pleased to tell us that now churches are taking more self-initiative to do projects without waiting for others to give toward them. One example is the new church that is starting in La Montanita where we met today. We met on a nice several acre lot which is owned by the local church. The members of that local church put their resources together and came up with 75% of the total cost of the plot of land and the Nicaraguan national church provided the other 25%. We were told that older, more established congregations are beginning to give offerings to support the new, smaller churches, and this is a sign of the new paradigm for ministry that is emerging in Nicaragua.
Have you ever heard singing that touched your spirit and moved you deeply? Tonight I had that experience. No, I didn’t attend a concert of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but rather was at a church service where the pastor’s wife from the Masaya Brethren in Christ who along with Melanie Wigg, the worship director from our church family at Westheights, led us worshiping God through song. They led us in a medley of songs that were sung both in English and Spanish and had a special ability to move seamlessly from one language to the other while the rest of the worship team played their instruments. These two ladies led us in singing whole-heartedly, and the result was a joy-charged experience that you just want to savour.
I just checked the odometer on the van of which I became driver by default upon arrival, and calculate that we have journeyed 890 kilometres over the course of our time here. My time driving a cargo-van as a courier has been an asset, although now my cargo consists of 11 other passengers. I am very thankful for David, my Nicaraguan co-pilot, who does a better job giving driving directions than a GPS would. Thank you for all of you who are praying for our safety in general, and more specifically for safety on the roads. Sometimes I feel like I have to aim a 7 foot wide van through openings that are only 6 and a half feet wide and somehow it passes! The parking lot where we pull the van in at night at the hotel is extremely tight, but again with a few people helping watch the corners of the van and the bumpers of other cars we get in at night and back out in the morning. My passengers are cooperative and don’t yell too loud when I accidently hit a speed bump (which are just about everywhere in Nicaragua) too fast, and those in the back of the van get a great bounce!
Thanks for following our blog,
We are blessed to be here and are learning lots,